I think VAC is another good pre to consider but would likely sound perhaps a touch softer, lush, or more "tubey" than ARC, which may or may not be a good thing.
While I do agree that VAC is a touch softer, lush and more "tubey" than ARC, it is nowhere near soft or lush like CJ or Cary. That is like saying that 55 degrees is a touch warmer than 50 degrees. While this is a true statement, I don't think that anyone would consider either temperature to be warm.
VAC is one of my favorites, it is very revealing and transparent, almost as much so as the ARC line. Though VAC doesn't have quite the hardness, thinness, or glassiness of the ARC gear. In other words, that touch softer is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
Neither ARC nor VAC should ever be confused with a soft, lush, tubey sound, both are on the transparent side of the fence, though ARC is more extreme towards that end than VAC, IMHO.